GLENDALE, Ariz. — New Chicago White Sox left fielder Andrew Benintendi says he liked New York and enjoyed his time with the Yankees, but he feels he’s where he’s supposed to be.
It’s no surprise to many in baseball the Cincinnati-area native has returned to play in the Midwest, especially after the cost-conscious White Sox outbid the Yankees and others.
“It was an offer I couldn’t refuse. This is where I wanted to be and where I should be,” Benintendi said the other day in White Sox camp. “It’s not something specifically where I wanted to stay in the Midwest. But as far as the teams that were interested, I think this was the best fit.”
There was word going around the game that Benintendi would like to get closer to his roots throughout the winter, and of course the Yankees heard those whispers.
The Yankees tried, anyway, as they saw Benintendi’s contact hitting and superior defense as a fit for left field.
The Yankees made an offer to Beninetndi and were willing to go to four years, but he got a $75 million, five-year deal with the White Sox, which also happens to be a record for the South Side team.
The Yankees liked Benintendi, and one Yankees person said captain Aaron Judge made two suggestions on his way to re-signing back with the Yankees for a record $360 million deal: another strong starting pitcher and Benintendi.
When the Yankees knew they weren’t getting Benintendi back, they focused on landing the best pitcher remaining on the market and landed Carlos Rodon for $162 million over six years.
As things stand, it looks as if Aaron Hicks, who struggled last year, will be the starting left fielder.
Benintendi, still only 28, hit just .254 for the Yankees last year, well below the .320 he was hitting in Kansas City (he hit .304 overall in 2022), but still made a nice impression in his month-plus of games.
And he had only positive things to say about the Yankees and his short stay, which was shortened further when he reinjured the hamate bone in his hand on a swing Sept. 2, ending his season.
One Yankees person said he, too, had the impression that Benintendi preferred to get back closer to home, but that didn’t discourage general manager Brian Cashman from trying.
“I feel like he enjoyed New York, and he enjoyed Boston, He’s a Midwestern guy but I can’t say it wasn’t a possibility if we made the highest offer,” Cashman said.
Indeed, Benintendi, who went to college at Arkansas, suggested there was nothing negative about New York, beyond the injury, which kept him out throughout the playoffs.
“I enjoyed my time in New York,” Benintendi said. “I loved the guys. I thought it was a good group — the coaches, everyone, the fans. It was fun to play there for the month I was there.”
Benintendi’s season ended abruptly when he reinjured the same hamate bone he had broken previously.
“It was definitely frustrating I wasn’t able to play in the playoffs,” Benintendi said. “I think if we won the championship series maybe I would have been ready for the World Series, maybe. It would have been a push. But I would have probably tried.”
There were hopes upon injuring himself he could make it back a little earlier in the playoffs. But he suspects that his situation was complicated by the fact it was his second surgery on the very same spot. (He said his hand and wrist are fully healed now.)
“It took a little longer than we thought,” Benintendi said. “It’s unfortunate.”